The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Today’s post is written by Gemma Reucroft, otherwise known as the lovely @HR_Gem, keen tweeter and talented blogger.

Artwork for today (and every day!) is by the brilliant Simon Heath.


When I was a child, my mother became seriously ill.  The cause was unknown, and stayed unknown, for five long years.  Because of my age, I remember this time in small pieces, fragments.

I remember pushing my mother around the shops in a wheelchair when she could no longer walk.  I remember my father walking through the front door, rolling up his sleeves and starting the washing up, still in his work shirt and tie.  I remember my mother, terribly, terribly thin.  I remember playing in the gardens of the private hospital she spent time in.  I remember my father forgetting to brush my hair on the day of the annual school photograph, and my mother being cross with him when the copy came home.  I remember my grandmother, weeping.

Eventually, when the cause of the illness could not be determined, my mother was effectively written off by the medical establishment.  It was concluded, horrifically, that she was making it up.  Attention seeking.  I won’t go into more detail, out of respect for my mother.  And it is simply, too painful, even now.

Eventually, after five years, she recovered.  A sympathetic doctor tried one more test, and the cause of five years of hell was found, just like that.  An operation was performed.  Within days, she was well.  Home.  It was over.

I don’t remember this, but I am told my father rang my grandmother from the hospital, and said that my mother could stand.  That she was free from pain.  When the call came, it was raining.  Apparently I took my umbrella, and ran up and down the street, knocking the doors of our neighbours, telling them ‘my mother is better, my mother is better’.

Our family motto has been ever thus: you only come this way once.  My mother has never been angry, despite how she was treated, and some of that treatment was truly terrible.  She could have been bitter, she could have been consumed by it.  But she chose, instead, to enjoy everything.

This history has left me with little time for negativity, or negative people.  People who complain about nothing much.  People who see the bad automatically before they see the good, the possible, the beauty. Life is quite simply, too short, too precious.

Christmas in our family is a wonderful time.  There are piles of presents, flowing champagne, a ridiculous amount of food.  There is also a great deal of gratitude, for each other, our health, everything that we have.

In some ways we are lucky.  Some people don’t realise the precious gifts that they have until it is too late.  So don’t wait until tomorrow, next week, someday, to do the things that make you happy.  Carpe that diem!


Today’s post is by the wonderfully warm-hearted, generous Bina Briggs, otherwise known as @PlainTalkingHR and occasionally as the Chief Hello Officer of Twitter, which reflects how welcoming and friendly she always is on a daily basis.

Artwork for today (and every day!) is provided by the brilliant Simon Heath.


@AlisonChisnell: Twitter, I have a question for you. Would you like another series of #adventblogs this December? Speak now or forever hold your peace 🙂

What a question, eh? I was going to ask Alison the very question when I saw the above tweet on my timeline, suffice to say that I was overjoyed. The tradition will be maintained for the 3rd year. Thank you Alison!

The year has brought calmness, happiness, positivity and personal successes of a different type – deeper, spiritual and emotional ones for me.

This year has had a running theme for me, that of a mother. Maybe because I have been thinking about my mum a lot this year, it was the tenth anniversary of her passing away in October. Christmas is the celebration of a birth of a very precious, divine baby, sometimes though we forget Mary the mother, her rare inner strength, her graciousness, her pain in seeing her son die at the cross.

For me, the story starts back in the last century when a 15 year old girl was married off to a much older man and emigrated from India to Uganda, leaving her large family behind.

The marriage was not a happy one, after some years, she gave birth to a girl and a few years later, another daughter was born. Both daughters decided early in their respective lives that as soon as they could, they would rescue their Mum to live a life away from the family home. Destiny took over and this happened a lot sooner than they’d anticipated; they arrived in England as refugees in 1972.

It was a strange beginning and Mum showed that inner strength that we had not seen before of having to start afresh in every way. I took it for granted how she made things happen and always had food on the table for us. Mum went looking for work and joined a local company as a seamstress where they made exclusive women’s clothes for a global market. Mum’s independence and confidence grew with every passing day. She became the true head of the family in every sense.

In her personal life, my Mum looked after everyone she came across, did not miss a single birthday of her extended family in India (102 at the last count) or the new friends she’d made in this country. The maternal instincts always came to the fore as she took everyone she met under her wing…

On 19th May 2003, my Mum was given 12 months to live, she had liver cancer. On 27th October 2003, my world, my family’s life changed and 10 years on, I miss her more than ever.

This year, my young nephew started University at UCL in Euston and my sister was totally lost and devastated in the first week he wasn’t at home. She cried her eyes out. All my friends who have had their sons and daughters in Universities confided in me that they had done the same in the first few weeks. The youngsters had in the meantime found a new life of adventure, excitement and new friendships!

In the past 12 months, I think I have become more aware of mothers around me and of course, the social media has been also contributory to these heightened senses.

I think I have some understanding of mothers experiencing the pain of the loss of their offspring – may it be temporary; or a permanent one. I have recently come to know those who have lost teenage daughters to cancer and how they quietly grieve whilst outwardly smiling away at the world. They have selflessly devoted their lives to Teenage Cancer charities.

And then there are mothers who walked the Three Peaks in Yorkshire for hours, for a cause to help fund research for their son’s medical condition – and for children they’ve never met; when they’ve never done anything like that in their lives before. Then there are mothers who cope with the daily agony of watching their children endure horrendous medical conditions by sharing their experiences through blogging.

And then there’s the single mum who loves her daughter to bits – calls her “her sunshine”… That overflowing, no holds barred, love is there for all to see and reflect in its glory.

There are the happy times too when the expectant mum is sharing her joy, every discomfort, every change in her body and of the growing child and loving the experience of being a mother soon!

So, during this festive period where it all started with a mother giving birth to a divine child, when we rejoice and celebrate the birth of this precious baby, do spare a thought for all mothers…

Mother, Mummy, Mum, Maia, Ma, Mere, Mama, Mutter, call her by any other name, I salute you all and dedicate this ode to you.


The wonderful and (for me!) slightly daunting thing about these posts, is that they are generously offered up from people in every area of my life: work colleagues, social media acquaintances, strangers, friends and family. I deliberately havent asked a single person to contribute a post, but have been wholly overwhelmed by the wonderful response to this series. I have two older brothers and today’s post is written by my ‘biggest’ brother, Dave. Keeping it in the family indeed 🙂


Well, here’s the thing. At the beginning and end of every year there is a natural tendency to reflect on what we both have achieved and also what we want to achieve. “Another year over, and what have we done?” sang John Lennon in his Christmas song Happy Christmas (War is over).

How will I remember 2012? On a personal level, I will remember it as the loss of our dear Nan in June. She was a lovely lady but as Ali has already blogged about her, I will just say she lives on in our hearts and thoughts.

The Olympics already seem a lifetime away. Many of my police colleagues worked tirelessly with precious little rest between shifts to ensure the games ran smoothly, as did the Army, many of whom had no choice but to sacrifice time with loved ones for the greater good.

The world stands in an uncertain place. Austerity measures are biting and food-banks are in demand. Yet these things are cyclical. It will right itself, give it time.

I think it is important to have compassion for our fellow man…or woman. Sometimes a togetherness of spirit results from the harshest of circumstances.

When all is said and done we are all God’s children put on this Earth to find our way. Whether you find the meaning of life through religion, family, friends or elsewhere, I wish you all inner peace, happiness and a wonderful festive period and 2013

We don’t talk about old people very much. We don’t always take the time to listen to them or to understand about their lives and what they have experienced. We are sometimes slow to appreciate them as individuals, and what we can learn from them.

My Nan passed away at the beginning of this month and her funeral is on Friday. She was a very old, much-loved lady and lived a full and happy life. I am unbelievably lucky to have had her in my life so long, to have known her as an adult, for her to have seen me grow up, fall in love and get married; for her to have held my newborn babies in her arms and watch them develop into the fun, independent, loving children they have become. So for me, this post is not so much about sadness, as a celebration of the many happy memories and a recognition of what I have learned from her.

Living less than a mile from our family home, my Nan was constantly around when I was growing up and was an integral part of our family life. Whenever I visited her home as a child, she always had lemonade and biscuits in her pantry, a garden to run around in, endless patience for playing board games and jobs for me to help with, whether it was drying the dishes whilst she washed up, or, when I was older, mowing her lawn. She was essentially very humble, easy to be around, almost impossible to offend, appreciative of being surrounded by her family and being part of our lives.

As a teenager, my Nan never judged or told me what to do. When I had boyfriend trouble, she gently and wisely pointed out that “whatever is meant to be will be,” providing me with great comfort and reassurance. When I finally passed my driving test, it was to her house that I drove first. She was as delighted as I was, although as I drove away, I wondered why she was waving quite so frantically…until I realised that I was driving in the dark without my headlights on!

Family Christmases were always fun and always shared with my Nan. She played every game with great enthusiasm until she was well into her 80s and even her 90s…spin the plate, murder in the dark…she would try anything and had a tremendous sense of fun. Her ability to laugh at herself, to enjoy banter with others and to have fun was undimmed until the very end of her life. She was always interested in people and delighted in getting to know my friends, who also called her Nanny, as I did. At my brother’s wedding, she gamely danced with my brothers’ friends and let herself be twirled around the dance floor…undoubtedly dining out on the experience for many years to come! My Nan was generous and always wanted to contribute. Home-made marmalade and chutney, taking my whole extended family out for Sunday lunch, expanding the invitation as the size of our family grew; lending her car to her grandchildren before any of us could afford vehicles of our own.

My Nan was consistently keen to learn new things, to challenge herself and try different experiences. She learnt to drive when she was 60 and continued for nearly thirty years until her sight started to fail her. She loved doing crossword puzzles and writing verse and even took up the local library’s offer of internet lessons in her 80s. She never felt that anything was beyond her and was willing to give anything a try. She was physically tough and cheated serious accidents so many times: in her 80s she slipped whilst getting off a train and became trapped between the train and the platform, yet emerged unhurt with barely any bruises. Widowed whilst still in her late 60s, she learned to become strongly independent and enjoyed a very happy old age, making new friends as well as treasuring existing relationships. She lived on her own until she was almost 95, when she broke her hip and was no longer able to look after herself.

The staff at the residential home where my Nan lived for the last three and a half years of her life not only provided her with excellent care, they also loved her. Right until the end of her life, she retained the ability to be interested in people, a vulnerability that endeared her to those around her and an appreciation of everything that she had, especially her family. One of the memories I treasure most is how much my children loved their Great Nanny Mo and how they clambered on her lap to hug and kiss her, even when she had become very frail. She was extraordinary and yet, in many ways, also very ordinary, a beloved Nan who was hugely appreciative of the good things that she had been blessed with. She was my Nan and a wonderful one at that.

There may be a few tears on Friday, but above all else there will be happiness of memories recalled, bonds of love and family that endure and a celebration of a life well lived. I think she’d be pretty delighted with that.


The last few weekends have involved a lot of bike riding…or more accurately a lot of learning to ride a bike. Over the last three weekends, my 6-year-old daughters have mastered riding their bikes without stabilizers and then upgrading from their small 14″ wheel bikes to a much bigger, heavier 20″ wheel frame. The former is certainly a life skill, the latter necessary because of how much taller they have become…yet once we arrived back home with the new bikes, I was concerned we were moving too fast and pushing them to do something they were not yet ready for or capable of doing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I could hardly bear to watch Mr C teaching them and quickly realised I was most help to the challenge by leaving him and the eager pupils to it. And of course, they managed it…a few wobbles, a few falls, plenty of determination and remarkably few tears. At the end of the first day of trying on the bigger bikes, I showed them the considerable difference in size between their previous bikes and their new ones, and already at that time they were amazed at how little the old bikes were and how strange it felt to sit on them. They had no wish to go back to the familiar old bikes…far from it, even though they hadn’t yet got the hang of riding the new ones to the same level of competence.

So, I’ve learned and been reminded of a few things myself this weekend: that people have as many different ways of teaching skills as we do of learning them and that mine are not always the most successful; that taking risks doesn’t always have to be as scary as we sometimes think it is; that determination and enthusiasm are often the most powerful qualities in learning new skills and that other people’s fear of potential negative consequences can easily be misplaced, however well-intended. Sometimes a cautious consideration of the learning strategy is aprropriate…at other times, the most effective way to get there, is just to have someone give you a huge push and trust you will get there!

Somehow I don’t think it will be too long before my kids appreciate the saying “it’s like riding a bike…” 😉

What have you learned lately? I’d love to know.



Sometimes, that which is personal, is by far the most powerful topic to write about. This post is about family, rather than business; about love, rather than HR.

My Nan is 98 and a half. She lives in a residential home and is profoundly deaf, blind through macular degeneration and often deeply confused as a result of vascular dementia. She suffered a nasty fall and a subsequent fit on Tuesday last week and was taken to hospital, where she then slept solidly for three days. The doctors could not examine her, as she was asleep, visitors came and went and I believe we all concluded that the most likely outcome was that she would pass away.

Until Friday, when she woke up.  Amazingly.

On Saturday I visited her in hospital, fearful that she would not recognise me or remember who I am (although that has never happened before). It was a shock to see her – her face and body were deeply bruised and she had not so much black eyes, as black both sides of her face. As she lay in bed and I came close up to her and held her hand, I knew at once that she recognised me, simply because she looked at me so intently and with such love in her eyes.

My Nan didn’t speak for about 15 minutes – her voice seems to have been affected by the fall, although she has not suffered a stroke – she literally just looked at me with love, with blue eyes that have seen nearly a hundred years of life. She did start to speak after a time, although much of her conversation was incoherent in its meaning. Towards the end of my visit, the nurse helped her to sit up in her bed and she dazzled me and everyone else in view with a huge smile, apparently delighted to be able to see her surroundings and look at what was going on around her.

As I reflect on this now, I feel not so much pity for a very old lady, who in so many ways is far from the Nan I have known and loved all my life; rather I feel an admiration for the sheer life-force within her that pulled her back into being. And I feel humbled that in the midst of such a difficult and desperate situation, her capacity for love is undimmed. That seems somehow so extroadinarily human.

So, that’s it. That’s what I wanted to share and write about this time. Life-force, love, memory, family, frailty and determination.

Thank you for taking the time to read it.

Writing a post myself for my own blog, now there’s something I haven’t done for a while… 😉

I had anticipated writing this post far earlier in December, although even now, as I emerge from the cosy family cocoon that is Christmas, but not yet in the full, bright lights of the New Year, I am far from clear about what I want to say. That the Highlights and Horrors themed Advent calendar blogs captured your imaginations and produced the wonderful guest posts that it did, is truly a highlight in its own right. And whilst it has undoubtedly raised the bar rather uncomfortably high, it feels rather like cheating to get all of you to tell me yours, without sharing mine.

It would be easy to write purely about work. This year, as no other I have experienced professionally, has been a rollercoaster and has stretched me at times beyond my perceived limits and abilities.  I wrote about my year here and it continued much in the same chaotic vein. The personal and professional learnings have been huge and yet, it has been only in the last months of 2011 that I have even started to understand the impact that I have on my team, the positive and negative shadows that are cast by the leader, both by what is done and what is overlooked and omitted. How blinkered we can be at times in the eye of the storm and how easy it is to place limits on our achievements and potential by self-doubt, preconceptions and lack of confidence.

It would also be straightforward to write about home, about my children and how they have developed and grown throughout 2011, what I have learnt by watching, teaching, nurturing them. Both work and home are only part of the story…or should be. Where I have struggled most this year, is in remembering, finding and listening to the rather neglected part of me that is separate from my work and home identities…and that is simply, me. I don’t believe I am alone in this quandary; it may be more common amongst women than men, but whilst one is so busy just keeping everything going; delivering at work, caring for young children and keeping pace with life itself, it is easy to fall into the trap of defining oneself purely by one’s work and one’s children.

T.S.Eliot wrote that “it is the journey and not the arrival that matters”. As I have started to take small steps to reclaim the ‘me’ part of my identity this year, that gives me reason for hope, optimism and reassurance. Sometimes, just acknowledging the issue is the first big step to starting to solve it. So, I took a couple of international trips this year, which I would previously have declined, I joined a book club with friends and on pretty much every front I’m a work in progress. But that’s OK, I think…at the end of the day, whether we choose to admit it or not, that’s what we all are.

Next year? I’d like to be able to consolidate more, to become better and more skilled at being a leader, at balancing work and home, at continuing to find, safeguard and grow the bit that is really ’me’ outside of the roles of work and home…perhaps to move beyond conscious competence (and at times conscious incompetence!) into something altogether more compelling and brilliant. And I’d like to work out at least one amazing thing that I’d love to achieve, just for me.

So, that’s me. I wish you a last few happy days of 2011 and a wonderful, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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